Koel is an Apprentice Aircraft Maintenance Engineer with Coulson Aviation. On his first trip to Australia, he’s based in Mansfield, Victoria working with the S-61 helitanker known as Helitack 348.

“I really like this thing (348), it’s fun. It’s easy to work on. The pilots are amazing, the mechanics are amazing, and everyone wants to teach me something. It’s the perfect situation to be in as an apprentice,” he said.

Koel, at 19, has been an apprentice for more than a year, first working with Coulson on the ground as a labourer in the hangar at Port Alberni.

He’d been eyeing off a career as a pilot, but the technical, maintenance and troubleshooting aspects of the work he was doing first on a CH-47D, and then the S-61 became an opportunity he wanted to continue.

He’s been in California during the north American summer, and now Australia instead of facing a Canadian winter, supporting 348 and its team on its global contracts.

Operating and maintaining an aircraft in the field is a challenge he’s enjoying, and is supported by Coulson Aviation as an integral part of the apprenticeship.

Coulson Aviation S-61 Helitack 348 is mainly operating on a long line bucket this summer because it suits the terrain around Mansfield, but can swap to a tank within around 45 minutes if required by operations. It’s a versatile aircraft that can also move people, including for remote area rappelling.